Monday, September 22, 2014

The Passing of Robert Poli

Robert E. Poli, who led the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) during their strike in 1981 died at his home in Idaho on September 15, 2014 at the age of 78.
   I am sorry that I never had an opportunity to interview Bob Poli.  As I explained in an earlier blog, he never followed up on letters I wrote or messages that I tried to send him through intermediaries.  But I was not the only person who found him reluctant to relive the memories of the 1981 strike.  Most of those in the union who were close to him during his presidency and at the time of the strike also found that he pulled back from them in the years since they walked out together and into history.  In an obituary in the New York Times today, Bob's son Rob reflected on his father's life and the legacy the strike left for his family.   As William Yardley, the obituary writer, explained:
    Rob Poli said that he sometimes challenged his father on the wisdom of the strike, but that his father would not yield, citing the vote of the union members.
“That wasn’t his intention when he ran for president, that ‘I’m going to become president and I’m going to take this union out on strike,’ ” Rob Poli said. “I think the difference was, he wasn’t afraid of being the person out there and doing it.”
“I’m very proud of him,” he added. “He was a good guy just trying to do what he thought was right and kind of got boxed into a corner. He used to always say, ‘Oh, Robbie, if that had worked out, it would have been the greatest thing in the world.’ ”
The full obituary can be viewed here.  

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